cranky home
Reviews since 1993:   A-E     F-N      O-Z    Posters       Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do         Search the Site

Your Donations support the Site

amazon.gif
Top Selling DVD     Books

BLU-RAY DVDs:
50 Shades of Grey
Exodus Gods and Kings
Grand Budapest Hotel
Imitation Game, The
Into the Woods

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Robocop
Selma
Theory of Everything
Ride Along
We're the Millers
The Great Gatsby
Akira
Avatar
The Avengers
Amazing Spider-Man
Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo
Dark Knight Trilogy
World War Z
Happy Feet 2
Iton Man 3 combo
Batman Begins
Dark Knight
Fifth Element
The Hangover
Hunger Games
James Bond 11 disc coll.
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Mission Impossible GP
Sherlock Holmes AGOS
Singing in the Rain
Snow White Huntsman
Star Trek Into Darkness combo
Star Wars Saga
21 Jump Street
Ultimate Matrix coll
X-Men First Class
X-Men Trilogy
X-Men Wolverine

 BLU-Ray for Family DVDs 
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Bambi
A Bug's Life
Cars
Chronicles of Narnia set
Coraline
Ghostbusters
Harry Potter 1-8 collection
Iron Man 2 combo
Kung Fu Panda
Lord of the Rings Trilogy Pinocchio
Pirates of Caribbean trilogy
Pixar short films
Ratatouille
Rio
Shrek the Whole Story
Sleeping Beauty
The Smurfs
combo
Snow White & 7 Dwarfs
Star Trek motion pictures set
Star Trek TNG Season One
Star Wars Saga (1-6)
Toy Story combo
Toy Story 2 combo
Toy Story 3 combo
Wall-E SE

OFCS

Search engine by FreeFind
Click to add search to YOUR web site!
click to search site

 DISNEY PIXAR DVDs
Alice in Wonderland
Bambi
Beauty and the Beast
Bolt
Cinderella
Coraline
E.T.
Kung Fu Panda
The Lion King
Mary Poppins 45th LE
Pinocchio
Princess Mononoke
Ratatouille
Rio 
Shrek the Whole Story
Simpsons Movie
Spider-Man Trilogy
Spirited Away
Star Trek movies set
Star Trek TOS (TV)
ST:TNG complete tv set
Star Wars Trilogy (1-3)
Star Wars Trilogy (4-6)
Toy Story DVD combo
Toy Story 2 DVD combo
Toy Story 3 DVD combo
Wallace and Gromit
Wall-E SE

Buy Movie collectibles
TV/Movie Collectibles

movie review query engine

NY film critics online

Privacy Policy

The Luzhin Defence

Starring John Turturro and Emily Watson
Screenplay by Peter Berry
Based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov
Directed by Marleen Gorris
website: www.spe.sony.com/classics/luzhin


IN SHORT: Tremendous performance by John Turturro. [Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and thematic elements. 112 minutes]

For those who are not long time readers: Vladimir Nabokov was one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, though his novels can sometimes be very difficult to read. We know. We studied enough of them in college. It is also long-standing policy of this site that you shouldn't have to read the Source Material to get enjoyment out of the filmed product, which is why we don't make those comparisons. If that's what you're looking for, look elsewhere.

That being said, no, this movie is not Nabokov. It is a clearly told tale of a grown chess prodigy, Aleksandr Ivanovich Luzhin (John Turturro) and Natalia Katkov (Emily Watson) the woman he quite unexpectedly falls for while in Italy for the World Chess Championship matches. Natalia isn't looking for love but it's quite clear that her mother (Geraldine James) would prefer a match with the French nobleman Jean de Stassard (Christopher Thompson). Stassard has looks, class, and money, all things that an exiled Russian upperclasswoman would need. Luzhin, with his ragged suit and distracted manner, looks like a man with only a tenuous grip on reality. That being the case, no one of the upper crust can understand why the man receives better service and standing ovations or why he isn't made to dress in tie and tails for dinner.

It is because Luzhin is, potentially, the Champion of the World.

"Sasha" Luzhin (Alexander Hunting) is the child of well to do parents. His father (Mark Tandy) and mother (Kelly Hunter) have relationship strained by the presence of Aunt Anna (Orla Brady), who seems more than a sister-in-law to dear old dad. Young Luzhin takes to the game of kings even as his parent's marriage began to crumble around him. We're not implying that his talent is sparked by emotional distress though it may have been amplified by a singular focus that locks out any emotion whatsoever. That kind of focus also explains Luzhin's personality and, perhaps, the radical change in his attentions once he sets eye upon, and hears the speaking voice of, Miss Katkov.

Mom summons Dad from Berlin to change Natalia's intentions. Champion Stassard is approached by Luzhin's ex-teacher and manager Valentinov (Stuart Wilson), who dumped his gravy train too early and wants revenge for his mistake; lots of subplot material here and all utilized to keep moving the primary story forward. Unlike many adaptations of novels, we got no feeling in our gut that "something" was missing in the big screen story.

We rarely see movies confident enough to allow a significant amount of action to two actors playing the same role at different stages. So, a tip of the hat to director Marleen Gorris who put the weight on Alexander Hunting's shoulders and to actor Turturro who delivers a bravura performance that amplifies everything that Hunting did. That's above and beyond the A-list kind of performance the man usually delivers.

Turturro's work so overwhelms everyone else that Watson never gets the chance to communicate to the audience exactly what it is she finds so attractive about the man. The Luzhin Defence is all Turturro's to win or lose. No, we're steering clear of even hinting what happens at the end of the movie 'cuz once the first surprise hits, the outcome is easily guessed -- and still as satisfying even if you've guessed correctly.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Luzhin Defence, he would have paid . . .

$5.50

The Luzhin Defence, in comparison to other films that fill the arthouses is better than the average.

amazon com link Click to buy films by Marleen Gorris
Click to buy films starring John Turturro
Click to buy films starring Emily Watson
Click Here!

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.